Making a run for it is foolhardy. The Russian up the street has begun watching us, arms crossed. He’s got a gun, no doubt. I wouldn’t make it twenty feet in his direction without him reacting—shooting me, taking off, who knows?
The police here don’t trust me. What does it mean when the people you’ve given ten years to can so easily decide you’re colluding with the criminals?
Of course, my name on the painting, not to mention my stuffing it in my car without surprise, isn’t in my favor.
I’ll try that end, first.
“Sarge, why don’t you look at the thing I stuck in my trunk. What do you think it is?”
Sarge asks one of the officers to open it up. He tears the brown paper, and his eyes widen. I get a bit possessive. Of course he likes it. But it has my name on it.
“Some kid’s picture, Sarge,” the officer says. He holds up that beautiful blue painting with the swirling yellow and white stars. I restrain myself from lauding its virtue.
“What is it?” Sergeant Boice asks me. “Why did it have your name on it?”
I shrug in response. I’m glad they see no value in it, least of all, no value for this case. Maybe they’ll leave it alone.
“Even without that connection, Reynolds, you can’t explain your DNA where it doesn’t belong.” He’s right. I can’t. “Any jury would suspect you were there.”
I have no motivation to say I’ve been framed. I do not know why or how my DNA is in that syringe, and Old Tim didn’t mention it. He didn’t want to be seen by Nick. Maybe Old Tim knew about this and was about to tell me. There’s only one way to know.
If I grab my gun, five against one—I’d only look guilty. No. I’m cornered and need to make this persuasive. How can I get away, even for a short time?
The truth will set you free.
Yes, Lord. I know it’s always safest to speak the truth. But what is the truth here? How can it be true that there are two Tim Reynolds? How can it be true that there is time travel?
How much of it is enough?
Susan hands her cuffs to Boice.
“Boss, you know me. Does that count for nothing? When have I ever been unethical?” Inside I cringe, knowing Grigory pushed me beyond ethics. “Am I the kind of guy who covers up a murder? Am I the kind who works with murderers?”
“No. That’s the second thing in your favor.”
Even now, the Russians are in my house. Even now, they may have found Nick. If so, what will happen?
“I have almost solved the case, Sarge.” I glance back at my bedroom window. Has Nick found Old Tim? If Boice finds them all in my house, what will he think?
“Tell me, then. Who killed Noah Black and Jamie Lewis?”
Boice rolls his eyes. “And you have evidence of this?”
“Almost. Yes. I think.”
“I’m sorry, Reynolds.” He reaches out the opened handcuffs. “My evidence against you is stronger. You can tell me about it at the station.”
Around us, the entire neighborhood has gathered. I know what the old ladies are whispering. Detective Tim Reynolds is being questioned by the police. That nice Christian man is a criminal. Poor Mercy. Poor little Sophie.
“Do you have to cuff me? You don’t really think I’d run?” I eye my front door.
Sergeant Boice hands them back to Susan. “We’ll do without the cuffs.” But he turns me by the shoulder to the car. “Get in.”
The truth will set me free.
“Boss, can I have a word with you, in private?”
“There is nothing private about this case, Reynolds.” But he must see something in my expression, so he says, “Get in and we’ll talk.”
Against my better judgment, I slide into the car, far enough along the bench seat that he can sit next to me. He shuts the door.
The ambient sound of outdoors is blocked, leaving a heavy quiet of me facing my boss, who already suspects me of duplicity. What am I supposed to say? What is the truth here? Lord, give me the words.
“I will explain all the details when we get to the station. But first, there’s something I need to get from my bedroom upstairs that will clear up everything.”
“What is it?”
“It’s proof. But it’s up there in my room.”
“You gonna run off?”
“No, sir. I’m going to get the proof and be right back.”
“I’ll send Susan with you, then.”
“It would be better if I go in alone. You can put people on the doors if you think I’m gonna run.”
Boice opens the car door and helps me out.
“You have five minutes to be back in the car.”
I gulp. Can I, in five minutes, find out all I need to know? Now is when a time portal would help. But Briggston has probably already handed it off to William Black, and he in turn has used it or is using it to start this entire disaster, however that works. I can’t believe I’m even thinking in these terms. How is it even possible? How can my DNA be at a home I’ve never been to or in Nick’s syringe when I first met him yesterday and he’s been unconscious until today?
He looks at his watch. “Four minutes, fifty seconds, now.”
I hustle toward the front door. The moment I click the knob, a terrible crash comes from upstairs. All the officers turn my direction. Boice rushes toward me. I triple bolt my front door and run toward the stairs, but the back door is wide open. Police will be coming in that way within a minute. In five paces, I’ve slammed and locked the door in the faces of Susan and Officer Morales. I pivot, then run back to the stairs.
I glance through the partially open curtains to see Boice on the phone out front. I’m not sure if they brought a ram to knock my doors open, and if they do, do they have reasonable cause to break in without a warrant?
I’m not waiting around to find out. However Boice calls it, the law will defend him. I hustle up the stairs.
Just outside my bedroom are two Russian bodyguards, and behind the closed door I hear Grigory. I push through them, meeting no resistance, and open the door.
My wife’s dressing table is in pieces all over my room, her jewelry scattered and makeup broken. In the middle of the mess, Grigory faces Nick. Old Tim is not around. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the closet door shut. I do not know how to find my evidence now, but my words come naturally.
“What are you doing in my house?”
“Checking if you got the payment.”
I frown and study Nick’s face. What will he think? What would he say in court?
“Not payment. A gift. This place is a mess.”
Nick’s eyes are wider than mere fear of the Russians. It’s fear of unknown forces. Clearly, he saw my other self.
Grigory has no weapon, and my gun is begging to be pulled. “I came with my partner merely to interview you about your brother. Why didn’t you tell me your brother is Ivan Briggston?”
“It didn’t seem relevant.”
“Why’d you move out? That looks guilty. More than that, why’d you come back?”
“This is bigger than you, Detective. Bigger than the murder of a rich boy. Nick Black has something I need. I’m getting it and getting out of town.”
“I don’t. I don’t have anything.”
“I saw it. On the recording.” He looks my way, then back at Nick. “Detective Reynolds did not ask to see the recordings. I studied them and discovered you came into my warehouse without using a door or window. I saw a portal open up from empty space, and I want to know what it is. You will give it to me.”
Should I play dumb? Should I move forward with the murder questions? Should I bring Old Tim out? Too many options and no time to think.
I can’t risk the Russians finding out about the portal. Old Nick says they ruined the future when they accessed the device somehow. But the device is with Briggston. That means Grigory doesn’t know what his brother is doing.
“Is this about the syringe?” It’s a dumb question, but it will gain me time and information. “Nick, I’m going to need to take you in for questioning. You’re aware they found a lab at your house.” Who had broken in? “Briggston said you threatened him with a syringe.”
Grigory turns his attention on me. “What does my brother have to do with the syringe?”
Shoot. Wrong words.
The front door thumps open downstairs. They had a ram. “This is the police!” distant voices shout.
“I’m sorry, Grigory Braginsky. You’ll need to take a number. We’ve got the place surrounded. If you don’t stand down, you’ll be taken in with Nick Black.”
I draw my gun on Braginsky. “You choose. I’m I calling you out, or Nick?”
“Down on the floor!” On the other side of the bedroom door, the men make no sound of resistance. Either they are well trained, or they are inert bodyguards.
The door bursts open, and three officers push in, guns pointing my way.
“Put the gun down, Reynolds!”
Grigory raises his hands, eyes me, and tips his head toward Nick, I shift my gun toward the young man and say to the police, “Tell Boice I have his witness.” The officers turn their weapons onto Nick, and I lower mine to the ground.
Boice’s heavy footsteps thump up the stairs.
“What the sam is going on here? Reynolds!” His eyes flick around the room, taking in the scene. “Who are these guys?”
Their own weapons have never surfaced. “Briggston’s brother, Grigory Braginsky.”
“The guy with the painting?”
“Yes. I didn’t know he was related to Briggston, sir.”
“Detective Reynolds did some work for me, off the clock as you say.” Grigory’s steady and soft words calm the sergeant. “I paid him with that lovely painting. Did you see it?”
“Yep. Did you paint it?”
My heart surges at the misunderstanding. I close my eyes thinking, That dread thing will be the death of me.
Sarge takes over. “Get these guys out of here. Take them all down to the station.”
More officers come up and escort Nick, Grigory, and his three helpers down the stairs.
Boice still wants me in for questioning, but I hang back. I need to talk with Old Tim before anything.
“What happened here?” Boice scans the disaster that was my bedroom. “Who’s breaking your house apart?” He reaches down and picks up a picture of Mercy from amidst the shattered mirror pieces.
I take the picture from him. Mercy, when she was awake, eyes bright and smile sincere. If she’d been here, she could have explained everything.
“I didn’t see who did this. I was with you, remember?”
“Let’s go, Reynolds. You’re smack dab in the middle of the muck here.” He turns me toward the door, but I resist. The other officers are gone. It’s just him and me.
“Here’s what I know, sir. Nick Black’s syringe caused the murders. We tried to interview him at the hospital, but he was afraid of the Russians, for other reasons. He worked for them. Some job related… accusation they have against him. So he pretended to have amnesia.” He nods. Susan must have filled him in.
The closet door opens. Old Tim is making a quiet entrance. Boice’s back is to him, so he cannot see the movement. It’s just my sergeant and me now alone in the room, so what does Tim want? Is he leaving? He should wait till we’re gone.
I keep talking, covering for him. “Nick knows about the machine in his father’s lab. The contraption will open up this murder.”
In Old Tim’s hand is a syringe. What’s with all the syringes? It must be the same thing he used on Susan. Old Tim eyes the window and points from himself to me.
He wants to knock out Sarge and escape through the window.
“I’m positive the Russians aren’t involved with the murder. The only connection is Grigory’s relationship to Briggston. And possibly that’s how Nick got a job with them.”
Old Tim is three steps away.
I panic. I have second thoughts about knocking out Sergeant Boice.
Sarge frowns. “Are you okay? You look a little pale.”
The police discovering a time machine is just as damaging as the Russians finding out about it. In Old Tim’s timeline, the Russians have ruined the future. If Sergeant Boice learns of a time machine, he, the DA or mayor or anyone who hears about it can use it to boost their own financial future. What should I do?
Should I let Old Tim knock out Sergeant Boice, then escape? Together we can get into the Black Mansion and confront Briggston and Black, if they are there. That vault must have evidence in it to blow open this case.
Or should I let Boice know that Old Tim is there, to use his presence as evidence to prove my own innocence.
The truth will set me free, but which truth will expose the murder? The truth about the machine and vault at Black Mansion, or the truth about Old Tim being in our world?
Which truth matters most?
Truth proving my innocence: Tell Sarge to turn around. (Bonus: keep my word about not running off)
Truth exposing the details of the crime: Allow Old Tim to jab Sarge. (Oops: break my word but keep the machine secret)